It is expected that as we age our hearing will start to fade. In my case, however, hearing loss happened far more suddenly. I’m sixty-seven years old and lost part of my hearing about eighteen years ago from a very serious viral infection that was made worse by a complication with the medication I was prescribed. As I lay in hospital my Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor said, “Dora, you may never hear again”. I was so scared and had a terrible feeling come over me. I was watching my husband, Ed’s lips move but I could not hear any sound. Seeing the fear in his eyes will always be with me.
At the time I couldn’t help but think about what would happen if someone I knew came to visit. Would I be able to hear anything they said? This fear became a reality when one of my coworkers, Barb Noseworthy, came to my bedside. Her heart broke when she realized I couldn’t hear a word she had said. We both cried. She left with both of us feeling empty and wondering if this would last forever.
Over the next ten days, my husband Ed was there for me constantly. He was anxiously waiting and hoping that my hearing loss would somehow correct itself but it was not meant to be. Over the course of these ten days only about 30% of my hearing returned. I left the hospital with information regarding hearing aids.
I tried to live a normal life but I became very withdrawn and depressed. Life would never be the same. Eventually I knew I had to find help. I was referred to Dr. Norah Browne who was the founding member of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association-Newfoundland and Labrador (CHHA-NL). My first meeting with her lasted more than three hours. I remember the long walk to her office at the end of a corridor, thinking I might collapse at any moment. However, during the walk back to my car I felt very uplifted. It felt like a load had lifted off my shoulders but this was just the beginning of a very long journey. I kept in contact with Dr. Browne for a few years and then somehow drifted back into my own silent world.
After getting a hearing aid, I eventually reconnected with the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association. I met Leon Mills, the Executive Director of CHHA-NL along with the association’s wonderful staff. They helped me anyway they possibly could. I started attending a Speech (lip) reading class taught by Kim Pratt-Baker, Director of Programs and Services and from there I became a volunteer.
I started to regain my confidence and I knew I was not alone in dealing with this huge set back in my life. I continued to attend Speech (lip) reading class and have met some wonderful people, who have also struggled the same way I have.
After five years I found my hearing aid was not helping me anymore. I struggled with the idea of getting a cochlear implant. I was encouraged by others involved with CHHA-NL to finally have the surgery. It was performed by Dr. Tony Batten and it was a huge success, a miracle. My family and friends were overwhelmed with how well I was hearing and had a hard time believing that it was possible.
Unfortunately, my life was turned upside down again. Less than two years after the surgery I was involved in a car accident that resulted in another surgery to have a new Cochlear Implant replaced. It was a total nightmare and a huge set back. I got through the surgery and hoped that everything would be like it was before. This hasn’t happened, at least not yet. Now, I’m not hearing as well as I did before the accident. Everything sounds like a radio that hasn’t quite been tuned to the right station.
I’m very thankful for the wonderful Audiologists I have had over the past three years as well as the wonderful staff at my hearing care provider. They did everything possible to make this implant work like before; unfortunately it doesn’t appear that this is possible. There were so many times I came home from the Audiology Department and said to Ed, if they could only put me on a table and make things right. I know if they could they would in a heart beat. It was very emotional and touching for all of us. This closeness helped me regain my confidence once again.
I’m forever thankful for CHHA-NL, particularly the Cochlear Implant Resource Group. The group meets once a month to share the experiences they’ve had living with a cochlear implant.
I made my decision to no longer suffer in silence but there will always be a huge void in not being able to hear and understand the way I did before.
Every day of my life I find myself saying:
If only I could pick up the phone and speak to my family and friends. What I wouldn’t give to hear their voices, especially in times of need.
If only I could be involved in conversations like before my hearing loss. What I wouldn’t give to hear the punch line of a joke.
If only I could sleep at night without worrying about what happens if there is a fire or an intruder in the house?
If only I could make a call in case of an emergency. To be able to hear the voice of the 911 responder assuring me that everything will be ok if I follow their instructions.
Before my car accident I found hearing assistive technology, including amplified phones and FM systems great. My accident was a rare and unfortunate one but it has made me realize that others would benefit greatly from having their hearing assessed. If someone has a hearing loss and seeks help they will without a doubt improve the quality of life for themselves and their loved ones.
Hearing aids, cochlear implants, hearing technology and other strategies to help with hearing loss can be daunting. That’s what CHHA-NL is here for. Their staff can provide insight into what might work to help you hear better. You can try out hearing technology, join a speechreading class or resource group. So many hearing problems can be remedied with help.
In my case, I’m fortunate to have a very understanding husband who acts as my ears. I’ve also found communicating through text message, on my cell phone, to be wonderful; my stress level has decreased tremendously.
Despite all of this, at the end of my day now, I know my limits. My hearing is not what it used to be but I do my best and I’m content with that. Really, I guess, that’s all that matters.